This week was pretty interesting in a lot of ways. We were first asked to write our reflections on the Blackboard discussion board on the Grace Lea Boggs interview and Lauryn Hill’s song that I blogged about last week. It was interesting to answer the question about what culture gets transferred. What was even more interesting was my classmates’ entries, they made really good points about generational gaps in policy making and about how change should be a personal thing that every single member of the society needs to make their own responsibility. I benefited a lot from their input and found the exercise of responding to their threads, not just reading them, very engaging, especially for the online learner in me.
In our class we watched the movie Freedom Writers, which is based on a true story. The whole pedagogical idea of reflecting on the movie was very beneficial for me because I didn’t get the chance to reflect on a movie in an educational context and as part of an assignment before. The process of articulating my thoughts to form a critically thought out reflection was engaging and required a high degree of analytical thinking on my part, which to be honest was educationally and intellectually fulfilling for me.
The fun part about it is that the professor asked us to do our reflections through video. Now, when I was preparing my reflection I wrote it down. So I could either include that here or just put my video reflection below. I will opt for the latter option, just because I am excited about it and felt it was a very good exercise of thought articulation and explanation through vocal presentation.
You know what, for those of you who sometimes do not appreciate videos as much as text (like my boss), I will include my text-based reflection below the video as well. I wouldn’t want any preferences left out 🙂
Video Reflection on Freedom Writers
Text Reflection on Freedom Writers:
I will highlight 5 main points and reflect on those because they were the major ones that caught my attention and also because this is only a short reflection so there won’t be enough time to cover everything.
The first thing that struck me was the opening scene, the first 10 minutes where Eva was narrating how she grew up, how there is a lot of violence against women, how her father taught her to defend herself from a very young age. She said, “We fight for what is ours.” That made me think, why should anyone have to fight for what is theirs? I’m not going to describe how this is an unstable and unsafe environment to live, let alone grow up. What I will talk about though is how this could be seen as a violation of very basic Human Rights. I mean the very FIRST article in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” And in no way, shape or form was this even regarded as important in the community in which the movie was set. On the contrary, it was explicitly violated.
The second main theme also relates to violence but it’s an observation that I had while watching the movie. The scene where Eva sneaks in some gang members and the huge fight breaks out and everybody in the whole school was fighting and hitting one another. The REALLY ironic thing I noticed was the GIANT Peace sign that was on the wall at one point during that fight scene. This sends a very strong message, an ironic one. The fight is an explicit and clear depiction of violence, hate and hostility, the students are running out of the class, the emergency bell is going off, the two opposing gangs or communities are fighting “the other” and then in the midst of this whole chaos, the director chooses to show the only and the biggest peace reference through a very big sign on the one of the school walls.
The third element I want to highlight was attitude. There are a couple of quotes about attitude that I stumbled upon before that kept popping in my head throughout the whole movie, the first one is by Walter Scott, he says “for success, attitude is equally as important as ability.” and the second is by Khalil Gibran and he said, “Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.”
Now, why was I reminded of how attitude can make a huge difference? It’s the teacher’s constantly positive and enthusiastic attitude, that never vanished and it’s what made her determined and eventually fully respected by the students. The ironic thing again is how the principal and the other teacher’s attitudes were very negative and also the students’ attitudes were very negative, careless and even rude. Attitude is relative and could vary greatly from one person to the next and it’s a huge spectrum. This was interesting to me because that emphasis in the movie on attitude and showing the two opposite sides of the spectrum made me not only remember the quotes, but also made me believe that they are true and it took that great difference to emphasize this idea.
The fourth main idea was Eva’s big speech to the teacher saying “What are you teaching me that will make a difference in my life?” She meant that whatever they learned in class did not relate to their lives, and therefore was useless for them and not worthy of respect. It is only when the teacher got creative in her teaching methods by integrating them in activities, by introducing ideas, books, reflections (through her subject) that are relevant to their daily lives did they became interested. The end result is they learned and passed on to the next grade, and some can argue that it’s the most important thing, and granted, it is. But equally important is that they weren’t just reading, they were engaged, they were critically thinking, they became interested in and respectful of the subject matter. The idea of respect was closely linked with trust in the movie. It wasn’t until they started to trust her (which was shown when they put their journals in the locker and that showed that they trusted her at least enough to share their very personal life experiences and hardships with her) did they begin to respect her. That’s around the time they began listening to her in class, moving away from their careless and rude attitude. This change happens when a combination of respect, trust and shift in attitude occurs.
The fifth and final point I will make is about society and communities. There was a clear distinction between the two “sides” of students and the gangs they follow. The interesting thing is how, before the shooting at the convenience store, both girls who were a representation of their respective communities were getting dressed in more or less the same way. They are the same age, with the same interests, both are from ethnic origins (non-white); the only difference was which side they are on. And that shows how they had so much in common and so little difference. The strong borders between the two sides began to slowly be erased when they realized that they all have the same experiences and hardships that were “ironically” caused by the “other side”, which was clear through the line game she played with them in class, when they were all working on a common goal and purpose (to raise money to host the writer of The Diary of Ann Frank), and when Eva told the truth even though that went against everything that she was taught but because she did the right thing because she didn’t want to put another human being in the same position she was in growing up (without her father), This all lead to them feeling empowered by that new sense of understanding and acceptance in this new community in which everyone felt like they belonged. The teacher also instilled that sense of empowerment in them in her speech to them when they found out they won’t be advancing to Junior year with her as their teacher, she made them realize that they all passed and reached this position, they wrote their letters that were later put into the book on their own and they were responsible for their own success, which fed into the whole overarching concept of community being formed by the empowerment of its members.